Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Address

President Obama calls on America
to unite to " win the future "

By Holly Bailey

Seeking to rally the nation to a new era of creative greatness, President Obama in his State of the Union address called on Americans to put aside partisan differences and unite around a common goal of global competitiveness.

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," Obama said, likening the U.S.'s current economic situation to the days when the Soviets beat America into space in the 1950s. He called for new investments in education, medical research and technology in hopes of spurring a similar wave of U.S. innovation that the nation experienced in its space race with the Soviets.

"To win the future, we'll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making," Obama said, adding "the world…and the rules have changed."

The address, Obama's first before the newly divided Congress, aimed to rise above the increasingly raw political fighting that marked his first two years in office. On Tuesday, Obama clearly sought to turn the page with a more centrist and conciliatory tone toward Republicans. Among other things, he embraced policies long championed by the GOP, including a ban on earmarks, a freeze in discretionary spending and additional corporate tax cuts.

The mood in the room was notably less divisive than in years past, as lawmakers, rather than sitting with fellow party members, sat with colleagues from across the aisle.

At the top of the speech, Obama reminded the audience of the recent tragedy in Tucson, pointing out a seat left empty in the chamber to mark the absence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a political event earlier this month.

"Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater--something more consequential than party or political preference," Obama declared.

Echoing a theme he ran on in 2008 and has revived repeatedly since his party took a "shellacking" in last year's midterm elections, Obama said the nation's future is more important than the rough and tumble

of politics.

"At stake right now is not who wins the next election รข€” after all, we just had an election," Obama said. "At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It's whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world."

The speech, an unofficial kickoff to Obama's 2012 re-election, did not break dramatic new ground. The president had previously championed many of the proposals outlined in the speech—including efforts to curb spending, the earmarks ban and additional investments in high-speed rail and internet.

Indeed, Obama seemed to stay away from potentially contentious topics, including gun control—which some Democrats had hoped he would bring up in the wake of the Arizona tragedy.

The president acknowledged that the growing costs of Social Security and Medicare represent one of the biggest financial challenges the nation faces as it seeks to narrow the deficit. But Obama proposed no specific steps on how to fix the problem.

On immigration, another hot-button topic, Obama talked generally about his desire to work with both parties to "protect our borders." "I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort," Obama said, as members of both parties applauded. "Let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses and further enrich this nation."

Obama made just passing mention to the political war over his health care bill, which House Republicans voted to repeal last week. Joking that he'd heard "rumors" that some lawmakers had "some concerns" about the bill, Obama said he'd be willing to discuss improvements--but he also warned he would veto attempts to derail the full bill. "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and move on," Obama said.

The president spoke only briefly about the ongoing military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the United States was successfully pushing back on al-Qaeda and was on track to begin removing troops from Afghanistan in July.

In another proposal sure to please Republicans, Obama also said the time is ripe for all colleges and universities to offer ROTC programs in the wake of the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Throughout his remarks, Obama sought to present an optimistic, upbeat view of the nation, acknowledging the country's recent challenges but insisting the nation has began to pull itself out of economic recession and toward better days—even amid near record-unemployment numbers across the nation.

"We are poised for progress," Obama said. But, he added later in the speech, "We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us…All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we argue about everything."

Still, Obama added, it's that debate that makes America "strong." (read rest of article)

Another fine job Mr. President

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